Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Problem With Avengers Versus X-Men-A Long Post of Observations and Complaints

Avengers Versus X-Men. AVX. That comic which is horribly broken in a number of ways. Yes, this series goes by many names. It also went from slightly promising but dull, to interesting but walking a fine line, to just being not good.

First, let's be clear that the artists are not to blame. Yes, with each, "Act," change (i.e. every few issues) the artist shifts for the series. John Romita Jr. did his usual thing and did it quite well, and Adam Kubert (who has my sympathies for his father's recent passing) has turned in snazzy stuff. Plus Oliver Coipel always is a delight to look at (his drawings, not the man--though he isn't ugly or anything). Yes, this has been one fine-looking comic. The problem is the writing.
Copiel is an amazing artist.
I've been able to overlook continuity issues that can occur when you have a book taking place over many cross-overs. I understand when you are writing a comic by committee with 5 people working together on the overall plot and (taking over individual issues) things will get messed up For example, Hope will claim she spent her life training for the Phoenix in one comic, such as AVX #7 as Paul O'Brien helpfully points out. Meanwhile those following the comic realize she didn't have a clue about the Phoenix until recently when it was mentioned to her by Mister Sinister in Uncanny X-Men. Perhaps because Kieron Gillen writes Uncanny but not this event he was unable to update the other 5 guys (Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, Jonthan Hickman, and Matt Fraction for those who are curious and wanted to see them listed in alphabetical order by first name), but who knows?

I've been able to even ignore the fact that the X-Men wanting the Phoenix to come to earth because they think it will help them instead of utterly destroying them like it has all the other planets comes off as kind of crazy when put in context--when it comes to breaking down the flaws behind the very idea of the story Tim O'Neil does a spectacular job. Yes, I was even able to ignore the glaring problem of much of the plot itself.
What I won't ignore, what I can't ignore, is how the comic has just become a one-sided good versus evil story with most of the X-Men as bad guys that has little plot reason for it besides, "The Phoenix is making them act weird."

When this series first started you could say if you sided with the X-Men or the Avengers. There were parties at comic shops for whichever side people chose with pins and the like. Some stores had cake. It looked like this was going to be a fairly even fight with everyone getting a say. Then the series started and it was boring. Everyone was standing around arguing about how the Phoenix was dangerous and because Hope somehow (it's never really been explained well, at least to my knowledge) has a link to the Phoenix she needs to be protected by the Avengers or something. This is an idea the X-Men who live on the Utopia island don't like, so Cyclops starts fighting Captain America and blah blah blah until we somehow end up on the moon.
 Then in the middle of the series five X-Men got the power of the Phoenix and went to work changing the world. That's a clever fake-out, but you have to be careful to not make these all-powerful beings look like bad guys. Guess what happened?

Yes, things were slightly interesting as the X-Men started to make the world better...but then they started hunting down Avengers and putting them in weird and terrible prisons. Then the X-Men started going into people's houses and ripping their minds apart with psychic powers because the people had wronged mutants decades ago. Oh, and THEN some of the Phoenix Five (though the number keeps dropping as when one is defeated the others gain their power, but do you really care?) essentially tried to kill Spider-Man. The X-Men basically became fascistic jerks.
Do as I say, or else!
From telling everyone they now run the world to the aforementioned prisons, mind-destroying, and otherwise cruel behavior, the X-Men who side with the Phoenix are now bad guys. There are the X-Men who agree with Wolverine that this whole scenario is bonkers and these X-Men are clearly the good guys along with the  poor, beat-up Avengers.

I would say this comic has the same problem as Marvel's Civil War event, in that you are clearly supposed to agree with one side--but then again in Civil War we agreed with Captain America even though Tony Stark was really the one who was right if one were honest about it. Stark was just being a...well, fascistic jerk. He was cold and mean about the whole registering-heroes-identities business, but he had a point. In this case the X-Men aren't even really right in any way however. Yes, they are making the world better from a standpoint of how they are fixing worldly problems such as hunger or energy crises along with bringing peace...but they are "giving" us this peace by enforcing their terrifying rule and any benefit they provide to people comes with the caveat that you have to be blindly obedient.
Complain about the Phoenix-powered X-Men and you end up here.
Avengers Versus X-Men has as of the ninth issue become something that I doubt issues #10-12 can fix. That, "something," is a comic that mutilates all fan-affection for the X-Men by painting them as monsters and expecting us to be excited for the new Marvel NOW re-launch where we get to see how everyone learned their lesson and now X-Men get to be on Avengers teams--because hey, it's not like tons of X-Men have been on Avengers teams before!

 Basically we are being told, "That whole Schism event we did? Let's make it moot!" along with, "You like the X-Men, so how about we call them Avengers in an attempt to get all that Avengers money from anything with that title supposedly selling better than anything with an X-logo!" Seriously though, this reeks of an attempt to boost X-Men sales by giving them the, "Avengers," insignia after resetting their developments of late through some drastic means such as the Phoenix.
This is what happens when you put the word, "Avengers," on an X-Men book and throw in some normal humans.
Marvel has been vocal about how while they are re-launching many books and introducing new ones, this isn't a reboot. All the previous stories still stand, history is as it was, etc. etc. The thing is, the way all these X-Men are being built as some world-ending threat the only way to really make them work now in any future stories is to essentially reboot them. Get rid of schism, eliminate the whole, "having their own island nation," idea, and bring them back to being a plucky few genetically-different individuals who protect a world that hates and fears them.

The shift to the classic-style X-Men started with the fallout from House of M where mutants were made into very limited numbers just like the old days. The Schism event with Wolverine and Cyclops having a beak-up in their friendship and views on mutants changed things up a little, but with those Phoenix-powered X-Men looming over everything its becoming clear that this is a deck-clearing exercise for the X-Men that other comics are going to take advantage of by hopping on the Marvel NOW bandwagon along with Cyclops (unless they kill him off or something), Wolverine, and the rest of the X-gang.

Perhaps this re-launch will be great and the mess that is AVX will just have been the birthing pains. That's my hope at least, because right now we've got little more than underdog Avengers and dictator X-Men. I mean, worst-case scenario they bring Jean Grey back or something equally stupid.

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